Mediterranean surges with Russia and US calculations for Syrian battlefield

Saturday, 2018-09-01 17:57:26
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Moscow have sent its largest ever naval contingent for the drills. (Image: GETTY)
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NDO – Russia has sent 25 warships and 30 planes in preparation for a large-scale naval exercise in the Mediterranean, a move considered to be a warning to the United States and its allies about the possibility of new strikes on Syria. While the Syrian army are preparing for a decisive battle to reclaim its last strategic base in Idlib province, any outside interference could threaten to make the situation in the Middle East country messier and more complicated.

Pro-Syrian government forces and military equipment are being organised in preparation for a major battle to regain Idlib, the largest Syrian territory occupied by the rebels since 2015. About 60% of the province is currently the under control of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) jihadist alliance with the remainder occupied by opposition factions. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stated that the region would be the next liberation target for government forces.

Backing the opposition from the early days of the Syrian civil war, Western nations are hardly able to stand by and watch this force lose their ground. Over recent weeks, Russia has repeatedly provided evidence and intelligence information on the possibility of the West’s ongoing preparations for new air strikes in Syria. The West accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons in Idlib and this will serve as an excuse to launch a war against the Syrian government, similar to the scenario used to justify launching the war in Iraq.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said that the US and its allies were preparing to attack Syria with the reason that the administration in Damascus have used chemical weapons. As confirmed by the Russian side, the US has sent the USS The Sullivans destroyer carrying 56 cruise missiles to the Gulf to prepare for the campaign. In addition, the US has also deployed the B-1B strategic bombers to the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. US National Security Adviser John R. Bolton once mentioned the Syrian government’s plans to resume military operations to regain Idlib province. He said Washington is “concerned about the possibility of the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons,” while stating that if this happened, the US would “respond drastically.”

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem warned of the possibility of US, British and French attacks on Syria, as well as the catastrophic consequences of Western efforts to destabilise the Middle East nation. According to Muallem, Western nations are trying to protect the rebels of the Al-Nusra Front and maintain a state of unrest in Syria. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said the West was using the previously used scenario before attacking Syria. Therefore, Russia’s deployment of large-scale drills from September 1 in the Mediterranean aims to send a message of its readiness for a fierce confrontation if the US interferes in the battle for Idlib. Russian Ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, stated that he had informed US officials of Moscow’s concerns about the signs of the US’s current preparations for fresh attacks on Syria, while warning Washington about its “arbitrary and illegal aggression against Syria.”

The three countries sponsoring the Astana peace process for Syria; Russia, Iran and Turkey, are planning a high-level meeting this September. The crisis lasting for the past seven years in Syria can only be resolved through dialogue. The United Nations is concerned about the occurrence of an unprecedented human tragedy if airstrikes hit Idlib, while calling for the establishment of a humanitarian corridor allowing civilians to evacuate from the area, as a potential battle risks turning the Idlib battlefield into a “real storm”.

The Mediterranean has seen a surge of activity these days as both Russia and the West have their private strategic calculations for the Syrian battlefield.